What a Prayer Book is For

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Reader’s Stand on Crete

I had the distinct privilege and honor to chant the vigil tonight at my home parish, and as I was singing the hymns of preparation for the weekly celebration of the resurrection on Sunday, I was reminded of a post that has been brewing for a while in my heart. Our eccelsiarch (head chanter who arranges the service schedule) recently redid one of our key service books which was in sore need of repair. He painstakingly removed the well-loved pages of a prayer book published in 1988 and inserted them, one by one, into sheet protectors and a three ring binder that now consolidates two service books into one. Seeing the highly used pages reinvigorated with new life reminded me of a time long ago when my opinionated self learned a lesson about the true purpose of a prayer book… Continue reading

September. Again.

Had our first day of school today in our newly created Home School dedicated to the Royal New-Martyred Family of Russia. It was glorious to be teaching in a classroom again, especially to my own dear children. It has been quite a long time since I have had such a pleasure, as I am by trade and calling a teacher and only secondarily a tour guide. I took a break from that calling several years ago so that I could have the energy to start a new family and to finish a seminary education. But now I am fully ready to get back into the fray, and this is so far a wonderful reintroduction for me, like the one described by another home schooler today.

The title of my post comes from a dearly loved college magazine I used to subscribe to as a young man called Campus Life. It was the caption of a memorable September issue which featured on the cover one of the most poignant scenes I have ever beheld. A single little boy in a yellow rain jacket, holding a tiny lunch pail boards a yellow school bus in a gentle, early morning autumn rain. Continue reading

A New Catholic Saint

Had the distinct pleasure to attend most of the American Chesterton Society’s National Convention at which I was the concluding speaker this final Saturday afternoon before evening Mass and the concluding banquet. It was a whirlwind of a convention covering the theme Education, Economics, and Everything Else. It was my first G. K. Chesterton Convention, and I hope that I can make many more to come in the future. I have been so long a devoted fan that it feels good finally to connect with my fellow devotees. Continue reading

A Night at the Opera

IMG_0184June 14- Repose of G.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton

I always wondered what it would be like. In high school, I had a crazy Latin teacher who actually took all of us guys to Tosca, but the sub-title projector was broken so all that we understood of the story was that some guys were all after the same women and they were really disgusted about it. Tonight, though, my oldest daughter and I got our first taste of  well done opera that we could understand.

Every year the Boston Early Music Festival performs a centerpiece opera that is recently revived from the Baroque period of classical music. This year’s opera Almira features a love triangle involving a newly crowned Queen (Almira) and her many exotic and mysterious suitors. Continue reading

Invitation to Breakfast

Reminds me of a quote from G.K. Chesterton, also about having breakfast (tangentially about the resurrection and a living church):

Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture to-morrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare to-morrow at breakfast.

– From “Authority and the Adventurer” in Orthodoxy the Romance of Faith

CHRIST IS RISEN!!

MARILYN R. GARDNER

I love eating breakfast out at restaurants. Perhaps it’s because I rarely do it, but when I do, it’s always a vacation feel – a sense of the unexpected.

Israel, Sea of Galilee (Lake of Tiberias)

So it was with new eyes that I read the line “Come have breakfast” in the gospel of John.

The verse comes after Jesus has been crucified and has risen, appearing to different people. First he is seen by Mary, then by the disciples and finally by others. He’s on the banks of the Sea of Galilee watching the disciples fishing in a boat on the sea. They have fished the entire night and they’ve caught nothing. Their nets and stomachs are empty. But this man on the banks of the sea tells them “Just try it one more time.”

Just one more time.

So they do it. Weary, frustrated, hungry – they still try one more time. And the result does…

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Chesterton Saved My Life

Through a series of rather fortunate and providential events, I have been asked to speak at the upcoming American Chesterton Society’s National Convention. Yes, you will see little old me if you scroll down past the doctors, professors, and journalists and get to the very bottom. My first thought was, “Whew, dead last, right before everyone goes home, so maybe only the real die-hards will be left to love me no matter what I say.” But then I see that I speak right before Mass and a closing banquet. So much for winging it. Continue reading

Canceling Christmas

There are many great classic Christmas specials I remember growing up. Most of them now are available on DVD or on some form of online streaming. zz rudolph and santa 900_rudolph_red_nosed_reindeer_blu-ray_8I introduced my own children recently to one of my favorites, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In this particular story, there is a scene in which a distressed Santa Claus makes an announcement to all of his North Pole staff that due to inclement weather, Christmas this year would have to be cancelled. Of course, Rudolph with his nose so bright, saves the day and gets Santa to put his game face back on, but the thought that someone, even of Santa’s caliber, had the authority to cancel such an extraordinary feast sent shivers down my prepubescent spine. Continue reading

The Word on the White Board

From foreverdigital on flickr.com

“Mr. Friar, what does paradox mean?” In my many years of teaching, I have fielded a variety of questions from students with a relative thirst for knowledge. Some ask with a genuine desire to know; others out of an attempt to trick the teacher into an interesting but irrelevant tangent from the lesson at hand. But I sensed that today’s query into the meaning of a difficult theological word was coming from a need deeper than idle curiosity or a mere thirst to know. And as the day progressed and my second assignment as a 5th grade substitute for a local Catholic elementary school concluded, the need of this particular student for meaning was revealed. Continue reading

A Never-Sleeping City & the Never-Ending Kingdom

I went on a quick trip to New York City and back to meet with our bishops who reside at the Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan, southwest of Central Park. Is a quick trip to New York City really possible? The phrase “New York Minute” implies a shrinking of time in which one of chronology’s smallest measurements is made even smaller by a large community of urban dwellers seeking to speed it up. Faster… and yet it always takes me longer than expected to get to my destination. Continue reading

An Explosion of Extremes

St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square

June 26/July 9, 2012

St. David of Thessalonica

We finally take a proper excursion into the center of the city to the well-known and much celebrated Red Square. Somehow, a visitor does not truly feel they have arrived in Russia until visiting this center of national gravity. Beyond being a great place for photo opportunities, it establishes for the tourist/pilgrim the identity of the place to which he/she has journeyed.

Russians have an obsession with things really, really BIG, or really, really SMALL, and not much patience for settling matters in the compromised middle. If anything is worth doing, it is worth going all the way, or why bother? The iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square is a great example of this love of extremes. Built by Tsar Ivan the Terrible, it is an explosion of architectural styles and colors. The multiple towering domes shelter a series of surprisingly small, separate chapels on the inside. It is majesty in miniature.

It all reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s definition of orthodox Christianity in his classic apology Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith (small “o”, as he himself was a convert to Roman Catholicism). Chesterton, also no lover of gray compromise, was a colorful figure from the late 19th and early 20th century who has been influential in bringing many atheists (including C.S. Lewis) to faith by his penchant for paradox. He says that what Christians aim at in their definition of orthodoxy is not a mean between two extremes, the dirty gray that results from mixing black and white. No, Christian orthodoxy would have both extremes “…at the top of their energy: Love and wrath fully burning.”

When I look at St. Basil’s, I think of this explosion of extremes. There is nothing tamed or compromised about this tribute to faith. So, while we tourists attempt to tame it into a postcard, Kodak moment, its towering domes capture the essence of faith in Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah, who cannot be tamed into a compliant house cat.